Monthly Archives: June 2014

Bonus Cut Presents: An Interview With Lansing Hip-Hop Artist and Educator Ess Be

EssBe pic 3

By: Gus Navarro

The first time I met Ess Be, I thought he was a rapper. This was at the ULITT Conference at Michigan State University back in March and he was participating in a cypher workshop led by the incomparable Toni Blackman. His rhymes were on point and to be quite honest, I didn’t know any better. As it turns out, he is in fact a producer and member of the Lansing-based hip-hop collective, All Of The Above (AOTA), and a recent signee to illect Recordings. Although he has been making beats for over ten years, you probably haven’t heard of Ess Be unless you’re aware of what’s going down hip-hop wise in the Lansing area. This is because he just recently released Bag Fries, his first official instrumental project. Spanning only seven tracks, Bag Fries is a project that demonstrates his varying production styles and abilities.

Not only is Ess Be a good producer, he is a great person that is passionate about music and developing his craft. In this interview he speaks about playing pots and pans as a young one and the moment when he first picked up a pair of drumsticks. From there we learn about the beginnings of his hip-hop production, something that he would come to work on obsessively, locked away in his room for hours on end. Bag Fries is the result of the work he’s put in over time and is something that he can bring back to the students he teaches at AOTA. It was a pleasure to sit down and talk about Bag Fries, hip-hop culture and Fruity Loops. With more music on the way in 2015, stay tuned to what Ess Be has in coming down the pipeline.

Podcast

Listen to Bag Fries here

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Mixes: The World Cup Mixtape

article_12e1e13a597d8a82_1384624280_9j-4aaqsk

By: Daniel Hodgman

The Mixes is a Bonus Cut series that focuses on themed mixtapes. The purpose of this series is to share music in hip-hop, but also to share the ability to express feelings through mixtapes. The premise takes after Rob Sheffield’s book Love is a Mix Tape, but unlike his book, these mixes will vary in theme. Although I will have notes explaining why I included each song, the overall interpretation of the songs and the mixtape as a whole is on you. Music is fickle because it triggers different emotions, and one of the greatest feelings is determining your thoughts for specific music on your own. Although Bonus Cut provides The Starting Five, a weekly list of songs the creators are currently digging, The Mixes is an individual entity because of its focus on certain themes.

PAST MIXTAPES
The Mixes: The “Dice Raw” Mixtape
The Mixes: The “Dreamin’ in Color” Mixtape
The Mixes: The “Keeping a Current With What’s Current” Mixtape

The “World Cup” Mixtape

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know full well that the biggest sporting event is taking place this year: The World Cup. Despite the stories surrounding Brasil and FIFA’s actions regarding preparation for this year’s tournament–and believe me, there was and still is a lot of controversy–the fact remains that these countries and squads are playing now and that hundreds of millions of fans are enjoying these games. Today I’d like to share some tunes from countries participating in the tournament and get everybody groovin’ to some worldly music.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Album of the Week: “Parts of Speech” and “Parts of Speech, Re-Edited” by Dessa

redeye-dessa-parts-of-speech-review-20130619-001

Dessa
Parts of Speech 
Doomtree, 2013

Gus’ Thought (Parts of Speech)

After having listened to Parts of Speech multiple times by Dessa, Minneapolis’ darling and Doomtree executive, it’s clear that she hasn’t followed the same formula as her first effort, A Badly Broken Code. More singing, slower tempos and an increase in live instrumentation lead to an album that is packed with emotion and musicality. I can’t say that self-proclaimed “hip-hop heads” or “purists” may find her second full-length album difficult to digest. Her style is far different than what some may or may not associate with rap music. However, if you can get past a traditionalist mindset, there is no doubt that Parts of Speech should be in your rotation. This is because what Dessa brings to the table is unique and different in the most refreshing kind of way.

A lot of this has to do with the way she uses her lyrics and singing skills to create vivid images and feelings that are relatable to multiple audiences. At the same time, Dessa is still able to make these stories seem specific to her experiences. There is the first track, “The Man I Knew,” that is about how relationships can completely change over time, even after ten years of loving someone with all your heart. As she sings in the chorus, “The Man I knew/ I don’t think that he can hear me now/ So dizzy with the altitude/ It’s just too far/ Who am I to tell you to come down?” Later, “I’m Going Down” continues the discussion of change within relationships. This time, it’s unclear as to why things are different but Dessa again has a way of telling the story so that it feels that you are the one going through it all. Primarily accompanied by guitar and upright bass, Dessa calmy throws out, “Pull you close but when we kiss/ When we kiss I can feel the doubt/ I remember back when we started/ My kisses used to turn you inside out.” With every track, Dessa continually brings her lyrical intelligence and emotional depth that has made her a mainstay in Minneapolis and around the world. This can be heard throughout the album and on the more up-tempo  “Skeleton Key” and “Fighting Fish.”

Dessa’s Parts of Speech is an album that will take you on a journey that is grounded in the theme of change. Grounded in spoken word, Dessa takes the art form to new levels. The lyrics soar with depth that is reinforced with production by Paper Tiger, Lazerbeak and live instrumentation. This is not a hip-hop album in the traditional sense. Dessa isn’t even a “traditional” hip-hop artist, whatever that even means. But I have to ask, in a pop culture hip-hop world that is saturated with commercialism and swag, why should we hold onto tradition? Why not seek out artists that take the art form and create something new that’s actually worth listening to? Parts of Speech by Dessa is one of these types of albums.

Daniel’s Thought (Re-Edited)

It’s now been one year since the release of Parts of Speech, the critically acclaimed record from Doomtree’s Dessa. After a year, Parts of Speech still stands gracefully, with its multi-mood, multi-genre approach. This is Dessa’s second full-length studio record–I’m not counting her remix album Castor, the Twin–and like her previous material, this album continues to transverse the genre/sound sphere. For Dessa Darling fans, this isn’t new: her albums usually avoid simplistic categorization with many layers and a diverse range in overall sound, and by taking broad-ranging themes and whittling them into little concrete statements, Dessa’s albums require attention to detail; these records are hard to grasp, even after multiple listens. More important however is the growth Parts of Speech showcases: Dessa continues to broaden her style with more singing, more intricate poetry over multiple mediums and a production background that steps up from the beginning stages of her discography.

In all, Parts of Speech deserves the recognition it still sees these days, and to celebrate the one-year anniversary, Dessa has released a remix EP of the record called Parts of Speech, Re-Edited.

Re-Edited doesn’t cover all 12 original tracks–in fact, “Fighting Fish,” “Warsaw” and “It’s Only Me” are remixed twice–but it does provide a good platform with eight tracks that justly represent an expansive remix record.

Opening is the lead-single, “Fighting Fish (The Hood Internet Remix),” a slower, more tethered version than the original. The Hood Internet carry their own though, with low reverberating lyrics and music that features strong electro waves and droning with sincere tones. It’s a great pick for a remix album opener, with enough to distinguish itself from the original while at the same time reiterating its main constructs. “It’s a shadow in the dark,” The Hood Internet say under blocks of electric guitar chords near the end of the track, and as a remix album it may just be a shadow compared to the original, but it possesses enough “darkness,” variation and change to express itself freely as its own.

Other tracks on the record are just as unique and experimental as the opener. On the Lazerbeak & Ryan Olson (their duo name is COMMITTEE) remix of “Call Off Your Ghost,” the two take Dessa’s vocals and stretch them across a clinky electronic shell. With a sound that slightly mirrors something off of Passion Pit’s Chunk Of Change,–although, nowhere near the chinsy-ness of Passion Pit as a whole–the two make this remix a different kind of sad–the original is sad in its own right, but this one puts it into a whole new category.

On “It’s Only Me (Grant Cutler Remix),” Cutler trades soothing string melodies for synth pads and a drum machine, which takes the song’s tone and makes it livelier. The setting and content behind the lyrics is still all Dessa, but Cutler switches up the music to make his remix more fitting for a bar or club than a symphony hall.

The “Skeleton Key” remix on the other hand, which is the album’s closer, absolutely shines with added instrumentation, as the Youngblood Brass Band provide a very formidable backdrop. Using their patented New Orleans fusion sound, along with their experience working with other hip-hop artists, the Youngblood Brass Band does what they do best as they explode all over the speakers with strong horns, raging saxophone bombardment, a frenzy of percussion and a fitting stage presence.

With other guests remixing Dessa’s songs such as The Year of the Horse, Dustin Kiel, Budo and Cecil Otter, Re-Edited is a worthy remix album. Celebrating the one-year anniversary of Parts of Speech makes this little project special, but without that certification, the music and artists would make this record stand anyway on their merits alone. Listen to the original Parts of Speech and then crank Re-Edited; celebrate Dessa’s music for all to hear!

Parts of Speech

Re-Edited

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Return of Dave Chappelle and a Look Back at His Block Party

blockparty--638x366

Starting on June 18th and running through the 26th, Dave Chappelle will be performing in New York City for the first time since 2004. Over the course of eight days, Chappelle will be at Radio City Music Hall, reminding audiences why he is one of the great comedians of our time. While the first five nights will not soon be forgotten, the last three will be monumental. On the 24th, the program includes a performance by the Legendary Roots Crew. The following night, Chappelle will be joined by Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier and Janelle Monae. Finally, the one and only Erykah Badu will grace the stage as Chappelle’s return to NYC comes to a close. With these last three nights, the goal is to bring back the magic that occurred ten years ago.

In 2004, Chappelle set up and hosted an all-day concert in Brooklyn with some of the the most respected and explosive musicians in the business back then and currently. To name a few, Kanye West, The Fugees, Dead Prez, John Legend, Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, Common, Erykah Badu and The Roots were all there sharing the stage. The footage of that day was eventually released in 2005 as Block Party, a feature length documentary film written by Dave Chappelle and directed by Michel Gondry. Dedicated to the memory of J Dilla, Block Party gives us a glimpse into a day of hip-hop that was full of dope artists, great music, a loving crowd and an amazing concert. Whether you enjoy or dislike the comedy of Dave Chappelle, the man knows his music and how to bring artists together. In anticipation of his run at Radio City Music Hall, we take a look back at ten of our favorite hip-hop moments from his show on Comedy Central and from Block Party.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Album Review: “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” by The Roots

the-roots-and-then-you-shoot-your-cousin-500x500

By: Pete Andrew

For Christmas 1998, my eldest sister purchased for me the Barenaked Ladies Stunt. It wasn’t my first album – that honor somehow belongs to Aqua’s Aquarium – but it sticks in my mind for one reason: though my sister bought me the whole album, rather than a single, I sat in my room for what seemed like weeks and listened to one song, “One Week, on repeat. By that, I don’t mean that I listened to it a few times before moving on to the rest of the album, popped out the CD in favor of another band’s album, went outside like a normal child, or even went to the bathroom. I stayed in that room and listened to “One Week” ad nauseam. It didn’t matter that I had to go to the bathroom – there were dresser drawers for that. It didn’t matter that I got hungry – I pulled up floorboards and chewed up those bad boys without hesitation. It didn’t matter that my other sister politely mentioned (with a raised voice and thinly veiled threats, most likely) that, hey, Pete, since the Barenaked Ladies put forth the effort to produce a full album, and my sister was nice enough to purchase it for me, maybe I should listen to the whole fucking thing before I die a mysterious death.

Alas, it seems evident that I am a member of the one of the first generations to largely eschew listening to albums in their entirety, choosing instead to export only my favorite songs to blank CDs or—now that I’m no longer twelve years old—iTunes playlists. I’m torn on this fact; on one hand, if an album doesn’t grab me from start to finish, why bother listening to the whole thing when I can get all I want out of it with four tracks? Conversely, many albums need the audience to consume them as a singular product in order for listeners to realize fully the project’s value. The album’s point becomes clearer when the listener commits to the album from onset to terminus. One’s understanding and appreciation for an album grows with numerous, full run-throughs.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody who has listened to The Roots, their newest effort, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, is one of those albums. There is no “One Week” or “Barbie Girl” (thank the gods), but at a succinct runtime of 33:22, one has no trouble getting from the opening notes (courtesy of the legendary Nina Simone) to the album’s concluding track, “Tomorrow,” which operates as, well, a “soul solo of sorts” for Newark’s own Raheem DeVaughn.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Album of the Week: “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (Parts One and Two)” by Raekwon

rae

Raekwon
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… / Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II
RCA, 1995 / EMI, 2009

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Pushing the Tracks: “Bill Cosby Sweater” by Cam Minor

IMG_0950 copy2

Cam Minor is a promising young artist coming out of Southwest Detroit. We first met him during a trip down to the Urban Arts Academy in 2013, and during a quick post-interview cypher he laid down some electrifying bars.

On “Bill Cosby Sweater,” Cam takes those bars and puts them into studio form. Over a quick-cutting beat that gives room for his lyrics, Cam admittedly declares on the hook: “I’m yelling out, ain’t nobody better/ I’m overconfident in a Bill Cosby sweater.”

Maybe it’s overconfidence, but here it simply looks like confidence. From start to finish, Cam’s delivery is strong and clear, and mirroring a slight similarity to Earl Sweatshirt’s vocal tone, there’s intrigue all over. What’s especially exciting is a mix between Cam’s confidence behind the mic and his ability to easily weave lines together. During his first verse he spits, “Hello, hello, goodbye/ Hit the party looking fly in some two-year-old Levi’s.” Later on he answers his critics: “I’m getting lucky like rubbing on a Buddha head.”

It’s this forthcoming style that makes Cam Minor someone to watch. As an artist with confidence, clear flow, clever rhymes and good production to back his songs, there’s nothing stopping Cam from releasing more worthy songs.

Peep the song below and enjoy!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: